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They Don't Know Squat!
By: John Paul Catanzaro

There seems to be much confusion amongst trainers and trainees as to whether squats should be performed all the way down or just half way. In most gyms today, a common instruction during squats, deadlifts, and lunges (as taught by many personal training organizations) is not to allow the knees to travel beyond the toes. Doing so will ultimately cause the destruction of your knees! I do not agree. There are certain instances where partial range of motion (ROM) is indicated, but for the most part, I teach people the full squat for the following reasons:

* It is the most primitive movement pattern known to man; our ancestors used to perform many daily functions (i.e. harvesting, gathering, hunting, cooking, eating, etc.) in a full squat position.

* Also, in case anyone hasn't noticed, we spend 40 weeks in the fetal position (which is basically a full squat) prior to entering this world - do we come out with bad knees?

* We should strive to train in full ROM for each and every exercise. The squat is no exception.

* Every exercise produces stress around a joint - the body then adapts to this stress.

* Cocontraction of the quadriceps, hamstrings and gastrocnemius maintains integrity around the knee joint.

* Sheering and compressive forces do occur around the knee joint (as opposed to only sheering forces that occur in some open kinetic chain lower body exercises, such as the leg extension); however, the large contact area of the patella with the femoral groove (as knee flexion increases during the full squat) helps to dissipate compressive forces.

* Therefore, not only is the squat - as a closed chain exercise - considered a natural movement pattern with high functional carryover, but it is also a safe exercise if performed correctly (and that includes full ROM!)

* Drawer tests are performed at a knee angle of 90 degrees because there is a greater amount of laxity in the knee joint at that specific angle. So, does it make sense to only go down half way where you are most vulnerable especially when greater loads can be used (because you are much stronger in this partial ROM?)

* According to Ironman contributor, George Turner, the fulcrum moves to the knee joint in a parallel squat as opposed to the muscle belly of the quadriceps in a full squat.

* Think about it, if you constantly trained in a limited ROM, the likelihood of injury increases if one day you happen to squat beyond your trained ROM.

* Partial squats performed on a regular basis will decrease flexibility.

* There is a low incidence of lower back pain and knee injury in Aboriginal and Oriental societies which perform full squats on a regular basis.

* Even Olympic weight lifters who practice full squats have quite healthy knees compared to other athletes.

* Although you may find some research that indicates full squats as potentially harmful to the knees, only one study has ever proved this to be true. However, it was performed on a skeleton - the same results do not hold true with surrounding connective tissue. On the other hand, numerous studies show the benefits of full squats.

Unfortunately, many personal training certification courses are teaching half squats as a safe version suitable for all individuals and this has now become written in stone. God forbid that you deviate from this golden rule to do something that our bodies are meant to do! Read this carefully: squatting should be performed in a full ROM where the hamstrings make contact with the calves (so that no light can be seen passing through your legs at the bottom position.) It is okay for your knees to travel beyond the toes (just do not relax the knees in the bottom position.) In other words, keep the legs tight and try to stay as upright as possible throughout the exercise. So, next time some fitness instructor approaches you in the gym and advises not to go deep while squatting tell him/her that they don't know squat!

John Paul Catanzaro is a certified kinesiologist and professional fitness and lifestyle consultant with a specialized honours Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology and Health Science. He owns and operates a private gym in Toronto, Ontario providing training and nutritional consulting services. For additional information, visit his website at www.BodyEssence.ca or call 416-292-4356.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/


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The Power of Stretching    - Dave Snape

 

Your muscles ache from a good stretch. This is quite
normal and is part of the process. Stretching has
seemingly been with us and particularly with athletes
since the beginning of time.

A very key point to good stretching is to hold the
stretch for at least seventeen seconds. This is a
pearl of wisdom gleaned from a ballet teacher a few
years back. She said that any stretch under 17
seconds was just not effective.

The 17 second rule is exceeded in the high intensity
Bikram's yoga where stretches are held for about 30
seconds. Don't forget the high level of heat that is
used in Bikram's to extract that last little bit of
stretch out of your muscles. An interesting twist that
is not necessary to gain benefits from stretching. But,
it can't hurt, right?

So what kind of benefits can you expect from
stretching? That's an easy one. Have you ever seen the
movie, Blood Sport? Did you know that Frank Dux could
truly stretch his body to the extreme. The actor that
played him was quite elastic as well.


Great elasticity is also something you might see in
well trained Spetsnaz (Russian) agents. They often work
out with Russian kettlebells too. They are for superior
strength gains and the ability to withstand ballistic
shocks.

Why are stretching and flexibility considered important
to these people? Stretching gives one the ability to
have explosive power available at one's fingertips
without the need to warm up. Of course most of us are
not martial artists or agents. But, you'll be happy to
know there are plenty of other benefits.

Let me give you an example. After learning to sit in
the full lotus position for long periods of time, my
ankles became very flexible. One day I was walking
along and my left foot fell into a pothole. This mishap
pushed my ankle sideways to about 90 degrees from it's
normal position.

Amazingly, this didn't even hurt, not one bit. If my
ankle hadn't been so flexible, I may have suffered a
sprained ankle. At the very least, it would have hurt
for days.

Key point: stretching helps you to avoid injuries.
Not only that but if you do have a muscle, tendon or
ligament injury it should heal faster, theoretically
speaking.

Stretching actually grows the ligaments, tendons and
muscles being stretched. They really grow longer over
time.

Check with your physician before undertaking any type
of exercise, including stretching.

Here is some good instructional material on stretching:
http://tinyurl.com/6c6kq
 

Dave Snape

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